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The latest episode of "Dr. Pimple Popper" features Mary, a woman struggles with asymmetrical body size.
- The third episode of Dr. Sandra Lee's TLC series "" aired on Wednesday night.
- One patient featured on the episode is Mary, a woman whose left side is far larger than her right.
- At first, the case stumps Lee, so she consults other doctors and orders more tests.
- By the end of the episode, Lee diagnoses Mary with a hemihyperplasia-multiple lipomatosis syndrome.
- It's a rare condition that causes fatty tumors known as lipomas and abnormal growth in one part or side of the body, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
- INSIDER spoke with a dermatologist to learn more about the condition.
"Dr. Pimple Popper" — the new TLC series starring dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee — premiered on July 11. And so far, the episodes have featured many of the same bumps Lee has long been popping on her YouTube channel — think epidermoid cysts, steatocystomas, and lipomas.
But the latest episode, which aired Wednesday July 25, featured a true mystery: A woman whose body is bigger on one side than the other.
Here's a closer look at the episode and the patient's fascinating diagnosis.
The episode opens with Mary, a 45-year-old woman whose right and left sides are totally different sizes.
Mary is the first patient featured in the episode.
In an interview filmed at her home in Texas, Mary explains that she first noticed the excess growth in her left thigh when she was 25 years old. Today, her left side is a size 18, while her right side is a 10. The size difference affects her intimate relationship with her boyfriend and her ability to wear clothes.
"I'm not sure exactly how it started," Mary says. "I just started noticing my left thigh growing and it continued to grow."
Doctors previously told her she had fatty tumors and removed some of the tissue with liposuction, but it grew back even more aggressively, she adds.
"I do worry what it is and is it going to kill me, and is it going to carry over to my kids," Mary says in the interview.
At first, Lee is stumped by Mary's unexplained asymmetry.
Dr. Lee talking with Mary.
After a consultation and exam, Lee is unsure exactly what's going on beneath Mary's skin.
"My first thought with Mary is, 'This is fascinating,'" Lee says during the episode. "I have never seen anything like this before. I don't even know if I've seen it in textbooks."
Lee decides to send Mary for additional tests and consult fellow doctors to get closer to a diagnosis. Before all that, though, she performs liposuction to remove some about 1,000 milliliters of excess fat from Mary's left thigh — a temporary fix to help her appear more symmetrical.
Mary during her liposuction procedure.
"Dr. Lee doesn't really know what's going on," Mary says in the episode. "So I'm a little concerned ... the worst thing could be that it's terminal, that it's going to cause me to have problems with my internal organs and it's going to kill me. So it's really scary."
By the end of the episode, Lee has a diagnosis:hemihyperplasia-multiple lipomatosis syndrome.
Another view of Mary's left thigh.
Lee orders a CT scan for Mary and speaks with other doctors before arriving at her diagnosis: hemihyperplasia-multiple lipomatosis syndrome (HHML).
It's a rare disorder that causes multiple benign fat tumors (a.k.a. lipomas) and abnormal growth in one side or structure of the body, according to the National Organization for Rare Diseases. And it's still fairly new, even to experts: It was first identified in 1998, a paper in the journal Pediatric Dermatology explains.
"Essentially just half of your body has enlarged fatty tissue," Lee says to Mary the episode. "But I don't think this is a life-threatening condition."
INSIDER spoke with dermatologist Dr. Brittany Craiglow to learn more about HHML.
"It's part of a family of what are now called PIK3CA -related overgrowth syndromes. They are a group of conditions that are all marked by overgrowth," Craiglow, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine's Department of Dermatology and author of a 2013 paper on HHML, told INSIDER.
These conditions all result from mutations in the PIK3CA gene during development, and HHML is one of the milder types, she added. She also said that it's "extraordinarily rare."
Craiglow noted that scientists are studying potential therapies for this family of syndromes, but there's currently no simple treatment to deal with HHML. As she put it: "You can't go to your doctor and be written a prescription."
But she did confirm what Lee said during the episode.
"It's a disease that tends to be limited to skin and soft tissues," Craiglow said. "It generally doesn't tend to be life-threatening."
At the end of the episode, Lee suggests that Mary try to control the growth of the extra fatty tissue with diet and exercise. And in a final interview, Mary expresses relief that the condition won't put her life at risk.
"It makes me feel better knowing that it's not life-threatening," she says.
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